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One Happy Day

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The waves of red were endless to the eye, from the rich canopies of silks floating along the tree branches to the dark sun hanging low on the horizon. As Zhou Zishu leaned against the wall of the dwelling, he could see the crowd of family and friends at Four Seasons Manor laughing and chatting. They moved rambunctiously around him until they all blurred into one red tide in front of his eyes. At the entrance of the manor, the big lake sat in perfect stillness. Even it had decided to dress for the occasion, covered in the deep red leaves of autumn. 

The swim of red was suddenly cut by bright spots of gold as a richly embroidered green robe traveled into his view. It was strikingly beautiful; the bright, glittering flowers up and down its silk had taken all summer to perfect. The youngest member of Four Seasons Manor clutched onto the robe's hem while sucking her other fist into her mouth. Zhou Zishu placed his eyes on that hem and followed it upwards, appreciating the river long line of a leg, the willowy waist, the moonlight strands of hair sharp and silver when framed by the sea of red behind him, finally landing to rest upon Wen Kexing’s dark eyes that watched Zhou Zishu watch him. He leaned down to grab the baby with his right arm, kissing her lightly on the nose, before he finished his walk over and pressed a finger into Zhou Zishu's forehead roughly.

"What does my beloved have in this head of his?” he asked. "You’re standing here so quietly. What are you thinking about?” 

"Marriage," Zhou Zishu said. He took a drink from the liquor pot in his right hand.

"And what are your thoughts?"

Zhou Zishu raised his free arm out to the large and bustling crowd, the sweet delicacies placed on the low dark wood tables set up around the courtyard, and the glittering decorations that surrounded them, the manor itself bejeweled and red as a blushing bride.

"Expensive," he concluded. Wen Kexing laughed.

"Only the best for our Chengling," he said, as he shifted the baby higher. She grabbed a piece of his hair and put it in her mouth. "How is he?"

"I had to steal this pot away from him before he drank it all in one go."

"A big hardship for you to do that, I'm sure."

"Yes," Zhou Zishu agreed. He rubbed his right shoulder. "It’s very heavy. That's why I'm drinking it all right now, lightening my load." He toasted to the baby in Wen Kexing’s arms. "Isn't that right, A-Ying?"

"Right!" she said, then continued to chew Wen Kexing’s hair. Zhou Zishu reached up to pat her head.

"Look at how big she is now," Wen Kexing sighed. "Last time we came down she could fit into the palm of my hand."

"Don't exaggerate, Lao Wen, your hands aren't that big," Zhou Zishu said, then squinted at A-Ying's face. "Why is she red, too?"

"She was crying earlier," Wen Kexing said as he smiled indulgently down at her before leaning in to whisper in his ear. "Beauty is an affliction, A-Xu. Like many others before her, she asked to marry me and I had to tell her no."

"Why not?" Zhou Zishu said, tapping his fingers on the pot as Wen Kexing leaned back out with a grin. "I'm not sure you'll be getting any better offers." He smiled, toasted, and drank. A-Ying stopped chewing Wen Kexing’s hair and looked between them.

"A-Xu's mouth is cruel," Wen Kexing sighed. "But his heart is gentle. I saw you put the handkerchief in your robes this morning just for me."

"That wasn’t for you,” he answered. Wen Kexing spent most weddings with the dam of emotion inside him ready to burst with a sudden rough splash; he always shed tears before the bows were over. Zhou Zishu had stuffed a silk red square handkerchief, the biggest one they owned, into the inside of his dark blue robes before they had descended this morning. “It was for me.” 

“But you don’t cry at weddings,” Wen Kexing said.

"What’s there to cry about?” he replied.

Wen Kexing shook his head and sighed. 

“The child crosses the threshold, A-Xu,” he said. He leaned his head on A-Ying's and they both blinked their wide eyes at him. “They cross over into the next stage of their life.” 

“They can pay for their own events now,” Zhou Zishu said, taking a drink. "It's a happy day." Wen Kexing rolled his eyes. 

"He’ll cry at your wedding," Wen Kexing whispered conspiratorially to A-Ying. "I think we'll still be alive on that day to carry you to your husband's home, no?"

"If you keep coming down in person to check on the embroidery of a robe, maybe not much longer. Was the person who stitched it that beautiful?”

"A-Xu is the most beautiful," Wen Kexing said. "And it’s our Chengling's wedding, of course I had to dress nicely. Don’t act like you're not enjoying it."

"The wedding?" Zhou Zishu took another drink.

"The robe," Wen Kexing said. Zhou Zishu swallowed and rubbed his lips, then raised his wet hand to wipe it on Wen Kexing’s front, but Wen Kexing stepped back so his hand stroked empty air.

"I got all dressed up for the wedding today. I don't want to ruin it so quickly,” Wen Kexing said. He narrowed his gaze, reaching out to touch Zhou Zishu's dark blue collar. "Though when the day's over, A-Xu is free to ruin it all however he likes." 

Zhou Zishu rolled his eyes, then focused on a red point in the horizon that was growing louder. The young disciples had moved towards the front of the entrance, hearing the shouts and voices coming from the road. He drank as he watched them rush forth.  

"So who else asked you to marry them?" he said, after a moment. 

"You have nothing to be jealous of.”

"So it was the embroiderer.” 

"It was another little girl, A-Xu," Wen Kexing corrected. He was watching the crowd, too. “And it happened a lifetime ago.”

Zhou Zishu looked over. No tears yet. Just Wen Kexing smiling at the crowd, his beautiful hands tapping A-Ying’s back. 

"You shouldn't get into the habit of breaking little girl's hearts, Philanthropist Wen," he said, pushing off the wall to go and grab Chengling. The crowd's loud murmur had turned more excited; someone had seen the sedan coming up the road. "Our sins are enough as it is."

"It will be my honor to share hell with you," Wen Kexing replied, flicking his fan open before walking past him to go meet the bride.

*

The sedan was a bright explosion of color on the road. Chengling’s bride held her father’s hand as she stepped out, encased in red silk and golden jewels. Her face was covered with a sheer veil, underneath which she smiled shyly.  

Chengling had ran up the mountain during the spring, twisting his hands into his robes, standing with his head bowed in front of the both of them as he’d stammered it out. 

“Marriage,” Wen Kexing repeated. 

“Yes,” Chengling said. “With A-Li. I wrote her a poem with my true feelings, just like you suggested. And she accepted them. Shen-shushu spoke to her parents. They’re still determining the most auspicious date, but if all is well we will be married by the end of the year.” 

“Of course a beloved responds to the sincere words of the heart,” Wen Kexing said, sighing. “Congratulations.” 

Chengling looked up. His eyes were round and teary as he stepped forward. His arms twitched, but he held back his hug, nodding fiercely instead.

“Thank you, Shishu,” he said. 

“Good,” Zhou Zishu agreed, and moved to clap Chengling on the shoulder. He was now as tall as Wen Kexing, and Zhou Zishu had to look up the barest amount to meet his eyes. “Come have a drink, then. We have to celebrate.” 

They’d gotten drunk on cold liquor that night in the courtyard on top of the snowy mountain. Chengling valiantly tried to keep up with them as he threw cup after cup down. He talked at length about A-Li's smile, her writing, the shape of her fingers when he held them. He clenched his fists together with nerves when he described meeting her brothers, then banged his head on the table and groaned unintelligible rants when Wen Kexing teased him about the wedding. When the moon was high in the sky and the alcohol was slurring his words together, he finally talked about his parents.

"I never thought I'd even get married," he said. His head rested on one of his arms as he slumped against the table. "I thought I'd just sit at home with them forever. Take care of them, look after them, protect them." 

Zhou Zishu took the cup Chengling held in his clenched hand and put it to the side. Wen Kexing drew circles on the table with his finger and didn't look up.

"I thought I'd pass every day at their side. Without a bride in my life, they would accompany me as I spent all my mundane days. But now forget those regular days, they won't even be at my wedding." He hiccuped then, tears starting to fill his round eyes. Zhou Zishu looked at those eyes and then couldn't look away. Like this, he could be the same Chengling crying in that abandoned temple, placing his body in front of Zhou Zishu’s to keep him safe from harm. A curious burning feeling settled in Zhou Zishu’s heart and spread outwards.

"Ah, ah," Wen Kexing said, finally looking up. "Don't cry, no tears." Chengling clenched his mouth together and nodded. 

"I just miss them," he said. "I just miss them all, sometimes."

"Who doesn't miss their family sometimes?" Wen Kexing said. Chengling nodded, then his eyes slipped shut. Wen Kexing leaned back and looked up at the night sky; he said nothing else for a while.

Zhou Zishu drank the rest of the liquor in his cup, then shook out the last sips of the bottle into his mouth. He then looked at the side of Wen Kexing's face until he turned around and their eyes could meet. His eyes were dry, but the gentle smile on his face made the burning feeling in Zhou Zishu's chest simmer. He leaned over to kiss that sad smile off Wen Kexing's face, then startled back as Chengling sighed and opened his eyes again.

"I miss you both sometimes, too," Chengling said. He kept quiet, waiting them out until Zhou Zishu nodded his agreement and patted him on his hand. He smiled.

"You'll be at the wedding?" he asked.

"Of course," said Wen Kexing. 

"I'm not alone, then," he said, and closed his eyes again. They both stared at him until his breaths grew even. 

Now, Chengling stood on Zhou Zishu's one side. The burning feeling in his chest that had started that day had risen in him again when he went to see Chengling this morning and had yet to clear out. Standing in front of them to welcome the bride was Gao Xiaolian, turning back every so often to give Chengling an encouraging smile. Deng Kuan stood next to her, nodding at Zhou Zishu in awe anytime their eyes met. Chengling shuffled back and forth from right to left, then rubbed at the scar on his stomach, an old nervous habit. He turned to Zhou Zishu.

“I think I’m going to throw up,” he said. “What if she changes her mind?”

“Then we’ll try again tomorrow,” said Wen Kexing, waving his fan at himself and A-Ying on his other side.

“What if I change my mind?”

“Will you?”

Chengling stopped his fidgeting, stood in place. 

"Of course not,” he said, his words steady. “As long as she’s willing, I’ll be with her.”

“It’s settled then,” Wen Kexing said. “Now calm down, your face is on its way to matching your robes.” 

Gao Xiaolian stepped forwards and Zhou Zishu himself stepped back. He’d never been good at the lighthearted, comedic show that always started a wedding. In his younger years, he’d followed his fellow disciples into teasing a groom at the entrance, but he’d only go so far as to hold out his one hand silently with no skill for bargaining. Jiuxiao had teased him on more than one occasion about it.

"You'll bankrupt Four Seasons Manor when my bride comes over," Jiuxiao had said. 

"To get you to stop sticking to me, I'd do it happily," he had replied. 

Now, Zhou Zishu felt the smile on his face at the memory as A-Li’s gaggle of younger brothers and cousins stepped forwards towards Chengling. The tallest of them only came up to Chengling’s chest, but Chengling furrowed his brows and grit his teeth in determination the same way he did when Zhou Zishu barked at him to go practice one hundred more rounds of a difficult move. 

"I guess you want your bride today,” the boy said. 

“Very much,” said Chengling sincerely, meeting eyes with A-Li over the boy’s shoulder before they both looked down.

“You’ll have to pay up, then,” the boy said. “How many gold ingots? Three for each of us lined up here!” 

A-Li’s family cheered. The crowd of Four Seasons Manor tittered back.  

“A-Li will have much more than gold ingots when she comes into this family,” Gao Xiaolian said. “She’ll have sisters to cherish her, brothers to play with her, and a husband who will love her for a lifetime. She can have gold, too. She’ll get as much as she wishes for as soon as she crosses the threshold.” 

The boy laughed. “Four Seasons Manor lives up to its name! Speaking with such beautiful flowery words, but what of the gold we ask for now? Our jiejie is worth a thousand gold ingots! Can you afford it?”

“She’s worth even more than that!" Gao Xiaolian replied. "But as a gesture of our happiness today, we can give one to each of you lined up here. Please let her pass once we do."

A-Li's family hollered back directives to the young man in front, stamping their feet and hooting. The laughs were getting noisier on both sides. Zhou Zishu looked over to Wen Kexing, who was giggling with A-Ying behind his fan as they watched the show. 

“Only one?” the boy said, after listening to the crowd behind him. “There is only one of this woman in all of the world! Her father and mother have only the one precious daughter." He looked over Gao Xiaolian's shoulder to Chengling, who clenched both of his fists as he stared at A-Li. "Is she worth so little to the great master of Four Seasons Manor?”

“No,” Chengling said, reverent. “She’s priceless.”

The crowd exploded. The rush of noise had Zhou Zishu grinning along with everyone else. Gao Xiaolian sighed. 

“The master himself admits it,” the boy said, then held out his hand. “Three ingots, then.” 

Gao Xiaolian turned around to Chengling, who nodded. She motioned to Deng Kuan who reached into the pockets of his robes, taking out the ingots from a pouch and placing them into the waiting hands.

The boy closed his hand around the gold then pocketed it. His jeering face transformed, breaking out into a wide grin. 

“Apologies to Four Seasons Manor for any disrespect,” he said, then bowed. “Please take care of my jiejie.” He stepped aside and A-Li stepped forward to stand in front of Chengling.

Chengling raised his trembling hand and held hers in it, turning to lead her gently towards the doorway. They took one step, two, three, before they finally crossed the threshold together. 

Zhou Zishu turned to follow the tide of the crowd as they entered behind them. He noticed only after he settled inside that his own hand was also trembling. He pressed it with his other hand until it stopped, steady. After all, he only had the one, too.

The ceremony was punctuated by the laughter of children. They both had big families, and the babies cooed and hiccuped and giggled as the pillows and tables were rearranged to accommodate everyone. A-Li laughed a lot, too, and Chengling's drunken soliloquies to her smile made more sense now that Zhou Zishu could see it himself as soon as Chengling lifted her veil. 

Wen Kexing stood by him for the ceremony. He had returned A-Ying to her father when she had fallen asleep and was now providing commentary in Zhou Zishu’s ear.

“It’s beautiful,” Wen Kexing said. “I’d pay for this wedding all over again.” 

“You mean I’d pay for it,” Zhou Zishu said.

“My beloved’s heart belongs to me, what’s more to be said about money?” 

“Will you fill up the coffers, then, Philanthropist Wen?” 

“I could bring it all as my dowry,” Wen Kexing said. He reached one hand to rest on Zhou Zishu's shoulderblades. “What does this beauty here request?” 

Zhou Zishu pretended to take a second to think about it. “Bring me the moon, then.” 

Wen Kexing pinched him. Zhou Zishu pinched him back on the arm but let go when he caught Gao Xiaolian’s eye. 

“And you?” he asked.

“Ah?”

“What do you want as dowry? Another one of those robes?”

“Philanthropist Wen would not ask for something so ostentatious,” Wen Kexing said. “I would only want A-Xu to give me one sincere kiss, so I may keep it safe with me for a lifetime.” 

“Cheap,” Zhou Zishu said. He turned to him with eyebrows raised, complimentary, before stepping on Wen Kexing’s foot when Wen Kexing pinched him again. 

In front of them, Chengling and A-Li cut locks of their hair and braided them together. Zhou Zishu looked across them at A-Ying’s father, who stood wiping his eyes. Zhou Zishu had seen tears in the eyes of both of A-Li’s parents as she looked up at them from time to time, smiling sweetly. As if summoned by his thoughts, he heard the first sniffle in his ear. 

Still keeping his eyes forward, he reached into his robe and took out the handkerchief to pass to Wen Kexing, who grabbed it and wiped his eyes as Chengling and A-Li bowed to heaven.

At the second bow to the parents, Chengling turned abruptly to them, bowing so quick his forehead thumped the floor.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice rough. The curious burning feeling in Zhou Zishu's chest made its presence known again. He smiled gently and nodded.

Chengling's eyes were so big and round as he raised his forehead off the floor. After this moment, he would be married. He was no longer a child Zhou Zishu had to look over. He would have a wife to cherish, children of his own to teach moves to, aches and pains as he grew older. There was no danger in this room, but Zhou Zishu suddenly wanted to take him into his arms, keep him safe from the time that would take him. Before his mind could react, he had already stepped forward, but a hand on his arm stopped him. He looked back at Wen Kexing, and by the time he turned back they both had already turned away to bow to A-Li’s parents. 

Then, just one bow left, taken sweetly to each other. They raised their heads to look into each other's eyes. Chengling smiled. A beat of silence.

The crowd burst into celebration. The pop of the red firecrackers crackled in his ears. The musicians started their first song to the cheers of all members of their families. The whole room seemed to come alive in a burst, snapping him back into the present. Chengling stood and walked over to them with A-Li, who took one look at them both and blushed.

“Welcome to our family,” Zhou Zishu said, but could say nothing more as the swells of the crowd enveloped them both with well-wishes. He reached out to grab Chengling's hand but among the waves of red, they both drifted away, becoming smaller and smaller as the crowd surrounded them until they were gone.

They had been whisked off into the bridal chamber; the wedding banquet now started in full effect. Gao Xiaolian had set up drinks across the room amongst a crowd of disciples. She caught Zhou Zishu's eye again and motioned for them to come over. He turned back to his side. Wen Kexing still had one hand on his arm. He had cried himself into splotchy red patches all over his face, a garish clash with his beautiful dark green robe. 

“It’s a happy day, Lao Wen,” he said. He took back the handkerchief clutched in Wen Kexing's hand, soiled with tears, and stuffed it back into his robes before using the edge of his sleeves to wipe Wen Kexing’s face instead.

“I know,” said Wen Kexing. “I only wish - ”

He stopped, didn’t continue. They stayed quietly standing together as the din grew louder around them, the celebratory sound of people living. After a long while, Zhou Zishu reached out and took his hand. 

"Let's drink," he said, and waited until Wen Kexing squeezed his hand back to move over to the crowd that beckoned them.

The light of the moon illuminated their path out of Four Seasons Manor. They walked, slightly swaying, along the chrysanthemum flowers. Wen Kexing lifted his glittering sleeve to touch them as he passed by. He walked slightly ahead of him. Zhou Zishu followed his silver hair with his eyes as he moved, a light that led him home. 

“When we were younger, A-Xiang told me all weddings were sad," Wen Kexing said. His voice was rough, from the drinking, shouting, and laughing they'd done all night. "We’d only been to Aunt Luo’s ones before, and everybody cried during those. I said she was a stupid girl who didn’t know the world, that she was wrong, so she asked me what they were really like.”

“What did you say?” Zhou Zishu asked. 

“I’d only read about them in poems, so I just made the answer up. I knew that they had to be happy. A beloved’s heart is tied to your own for all of eternity, what couldn’t be happy about that? I told her I'd take her to a happy one before I died."

He stopped walking. They were at the edge of the lake now, and when he turned back to look at him Zhou Zishu’s eyes were drawn instead to his reflection, a beautiful immortal living in the water. 

“But she was right,” Wen Kexing said. “Weddings are always sad.”

His eyes were shiny in the moonlight. He looked away from Zhou Zishu's face and into the water. 

"We'll hold a grand wedding for her," Zhou Zishu said. "Three streets of dowry." 

"I'm not a good man, A-Xu," said Wen Kexing. "I might not be able to find her in time. In the next life, I may only be a fly at her window, powerless to give her anything."

"You can bite every unworthy suitor who comes for her hand," Zhou Zishu said. Wen Kexing smiled at his reflection. 

"You're full of ideas."

"I'll be the rock in her garden," Zhou Zishu continued. "When you get tired of biting, you can come rest with me in the sun." Wen Kexing finally left his reflection, turning back to laugh at him. 

"Thank you," he said. "But I wasn't talking about me, just now. I was talking about you."

"Me?" Zhou Zishu said. "What's there to talk about?" 

Wen Kexing waited and said nothing. So here's where Chengling learned it, Zhou Zishu realized. He tried to wait it out but felt his mouth move anyways, uncontrollable in front of Wen Kexing's patient look.

“He’ll have a wife and children now,” he said. “People to pass the days with that aren’t you and me.” 

“Yes,” Wen Kexing said.

“He’s getting older. He’s taller than me now, did you notice?"

“Yes,” Wen Kexing repeated.

“I don’t want to see him die in front of me,” Zhou Zishu said, finally. His voice was quiet, but in the silence of the night between them it was as if the whole crowd from today had shouted it with him. 

Wen Kexing’s white hair fluttered in the evening breeze. The gold sparkling on him was muted by the night sky, but still shimmered. His air was otherwordly as he said,

“I’ve already seen it. Trust me, one can live on.” 

The heat in Zhou Zishu’s chest, simmering since the morning, puttered out in a cold shock of ice. He couldn’t meet Wen Kexing’s eyes. 

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“You didn’t kill her, A-Xu,” Wen Kexing said.

“I’m still sorry that it happened,” he said. “That you hurt.” 

Wen Kexing stared into the water for a long moment, then sighed deeply and looked up. His voice was clear as he said, “Does A-Xu want to die before Chengling?” 

Zhou Zishu shook his head back and forth. The move made him light-headed; he was drunk. “I’ll live with you until we find her. Before then, after. Whatever you wish.” 

Wen Kexing put both of his hands behind his back and smiled gently. 

"I only wish that A-Xu could stay with me for a lifetime," Wen Kexing said. “The rest will just be as it will be.”

The cold in Zhou Zishu's chest slowly dissipated. He waited for the warm burn but it didn't return. It was only his chest, then, lifting in and out as he took breath after breath, holding his gentle heart which was beating now faster than before. He looked up.

The alcohol had flushed Wen Kexing's face. His cheeks were red. His eyes were red-rimmed, too, from crying earlier. Just a human after all, then. The swim of red was all Zhou Zishu could see as he walked towards him. He pointed to the moon, high in the sky, as he grabbed Wen Kexing around the waist with his right arm and lifted him up until his feet were off the ground. Wen Kexing wrapped his arms around his shoulders.

"A-Xu?" he asked.

"Day's over," Zhou Zishu explained, then kissed Wen Kexing's astonished face as he jumped into the water.

*

They walked back up the mountain together. Wen Kexing kept kissing the side of his neck every few steps, laughing and whispering his name.  

"So clingy," Zhou Zishu complained, but made no move to let go of Wen Kexing's left hand clasped in his right one. He hissed as Wen Kexing bit down on a fresh bruise. "That still hurts, idiot."

"Jumping on me like that, were you expecting something gentle?" Wen Kexing said. He was using his other hand to try to dry the last of the lake water out of a patch on his robe, passing as much heat into it as he could. "Though you could have ordered me to take the robe off beforehand, A-Xu.”

"As if you didn't enjoy me ruining it," Zhou Zishu muttered as they walked. He could see the doorway of their home now.

"I enjoyed it immensely," Wen Kexing said. He let go of his robe and pressed his finger into Zhou Zishu's forehead again, pushing his head slightly backwards. "What is my beloved thinking about now?"

"The same thing I was thinking about this morning," Zhou Zishu said. 

"Ah," Wen Kexing said, and nodded. "Marriage."

"Marrying you," Zhou Zishu clarified, and tried to keep going when Wen Kexing stopped walking. 

"I want to go home," Zhou Zishu said and used his free hand to point towards their threshold. The back of his neck was creeping up red now. He kept his eyes forward.

"Let go of my hand, then," Wen Kexing said from behind him. Zhou Zishu could hear the smile in his voice, so he let go and kept walking. 

"A-Xu," whined Wen Kexing. When Zhou Zishu turned back to look at him, he was framed against the dark night behind him. The edge of his robe was muddy with the soil of the lake. The dirt had travelled up the fine line of his leg to the crumpled belt at his waist. The silver strands of his hair were still slightly damp, hanging heavily around his shoulders.  

"We're already married," Wen Kexing said. Zhou Zishu shrugged.

"Where's my dowry?" 

Wen Kexing dashed a hand against a lock of his moonlight hair. It came away softly and he held it out to him. They stared at each other in silence for a moment until Zhou Zishu walked forward and grabbed it. Wen Kexing went down on his knees in the snow. 

"I'll follow Shixiong's lead," Wen Kexing teased. He was smiling.

"Alright, then," Zhou Zishu said, and went down on his knees next to him. He took Wen Kexing's face in his hands and kissed him. "That's yours." 

He then reached to his own hair, cutting a lock of it before braiding it gently with the silver lock he held until they melded together. He reached into his robe and took out the handkerchief and placed the braided lock there before tying it up and stuffing it back in.

He looked over at Wen Kexing who was still smiling, then turned to the doorway of their home. Wen Kexing followed.

They bowed together. 

Thank you for keeping us both alive to meet one another, Zhou Zishu thought, and then came back up.

They bowed back down again.

Shifu, Shimu, Jiuxiao. I'm married now. You know I'm no good at bargaining, I gave up the world for him. But he's good to me, he's worth it, you don't have to worry, he said to the ground. Then, I'll keep him safe for you, he promised Wen Kexing's parents. He'll never be alone when he cries again. He's mine now. He raised up from his bow, but Wen Kexing still had his forehead to the ground. He waited until he rose up, too, then turned on his knees until they faced each other.

"Just one more," he said. He looked down at Wen Kexing's knees and grabbed both his hands to hold in his own. Wen Kexing lifted their joined hands. Zhou Zishu looked up into his dry eyes. Wen Kexing dropped a kiss to their hands, then brought him down to the earth. 

Zhou Zishu's forehead touched the dirt. He could hear the mingling of their breaths in the quiet night.

I'll pay any price to be with you, he thought. I'll live with you until you don’t want to live anymore, then I'll follow you to the ends of the earth and die with you. Whether heaven or hell, I’ll share it all with you, from now until the end. 

He had barely lifted his head before Wen Kexing was on him, lifting him up fully onto his knees and circling his arms around his neck. He tossed himself to lie back in the snow and dragged Zhou Zishu down on top of himself, pressing Zhou Zishu's face into his own neck and repeating A-Xu, A-Xu into his hair. The litany of his name was soft, cut by the harsh gasps of his own breath that suddenly surrounded them. He lifted his head.

Wen Kexing reached his beautiful hands up to cup his face, his thumbs brushing under his eyes.

"A-Xu," he said, voice quiet in wonder, "you're crying."

Once the tears started, they didn't stop. He felt their warmth continue down his face, saw one drop to Wen Kexing's red cheek. Wen Kexing held his face between his hands and didn’t move to wipe them, just let the tears fall down onto his own skin. After a minute, he started to smile, a lovely red sun on his open face. Then, he started to laugh.

The laughs were so loud and strong that he shook beneath him. For every shuddery hiccup Zhou Zishu took, Wen Kexing gasped for breath in turn with his wide smiling face. Zhou Zishu punched him in the shoulder.

"It's a wedding, bastard," Zhou Zishu said, in between his own gasps for breath. "People cry at weddings."

"Of course," Wen Kexing said as he brought Zhou Zishu's face back down to his neck. He ran his fingers through his hair. "Cry as much as you want."

He did. He cried as much as he could take it, alone with Wen Kexing on top of the mountain. His sobs trickled into tears, into soft hiccups, and then finally shaky breaths. He didn’t know how much time had passed, but it was still dark as he finally lifted his head and looked again at Wen Kexing, who had been waiting. Zhou Zishu leaned down to kiss him, pressing his lips against his mouth, trading him his breath. He pressed his body down heavily, trying to meld into one, before pushing himself off and upright. He held a hand out to Wen Kexing who took it and stood up. They started walking. 

"You cried at every wedding but our own," Zhou Zishu said, when his shaky breaths finally stopped and he had his voice back. "Should I be hurt, Lao Wen?" 

"I'm saving my tears for the marriage bed," Wen Kexing said, then laughed giddily at Zhou Zishu's answering look and leaned into him. "This is the best wedding I've ever been to." 

"Better than the poems?" Zhou Zishu asked. 

"Much better," said Wen Kexing. "This one's real."

They crossed over the threshold together, hand in hand.